U.S. District Court Finds U.S. Government Liable for Negligently Allowing Sutherland Springs Gunman to Purchase Firearm

July 7, 2021

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS—Today the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Texas ruled in favor of survivors and families of victims involved in the Sutherland Springs church shooting in a trial against the United States Government. Judge Xavier Rodriguez found the U.S. Air Force liable for failing to provide the shooter’s domestic violence convictions to the FBI which would have blocked the gunman from buying the rifle that he used to kill 26 and injure 22 people. The Court found that the Government was 60% responsible for the shooting and Devin Kelley was 40% responsible.

The Court ruled: “The trial conclusively established that no other individual—not even Kelley’s own parents or partners—knew as much as the United States about the violence that Devin Kelley had threatened to commit and was capable of committing. Moreover, the evidence shows that—had the Government done its job and properly reported Kelley’s information into the background check system—it is more likely than not that Kelley would have been deterred from carrying out the Church shooting. For these reasons, the Government bears significant responsibility for the Plaintiffs’ harm.”

National Trial Law Partners Jamal Alsaffar and Tom Jacob served as lead plaintiffs’ counsel at trial against the federal government. The 10-day bench trial concluded in April.

“These families showed great courage and strength in pursuing justice despite their horrible loss. If it wasn’t for these brave families, the Government would never have taken or faced responsibility for their negligence.”

Jamal Alsaffar

“These families have endured so much loss and then had to endure their Government trying to avoid responsibility for negligence they admitted to. So this verdict is a huge step in telling a simple but strong truth: no matter how powerful you are, the courtrooms of this country will hold you accountable for wrongdoing.”

Tom Jacob

The case will proceed to a second trial phase to determine damages in the coming months. Despite Kelley’s history of making violent threats against his superiors while in the military and threatening mass shootings while in the Air Force, the Government claimed the Air Force could not have foreseen Kelley’s violent conduct. The Government made this claim even though the trial proved that the Air Force took measures to protect themselves from Kelley’s threats, such as confiscating his weapons and barring him from entering all Air Force Bases nationwide.

National Trial Law has posted on their website the following documents from the trial:

  • Court’s Ruling
  • Trial Transcripts
  • Video of Air Force Employees admitting that the shooting was foreseeable
  • Air Force File Documenting Kelley as an extreme danger (Joint Exhibit 403)
  • Air Force Task Force Report on Kelley (Joint Exhibit 27)

These documents can be found at the following URL: https://nationaltriallaw.com/sutherland-springs-shooting-lawsuit/

The plaintiffs are represented by Jamal Alsaffar and Tom Jacob of Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham & Jacob PLLC, April Strahan and Robert Ammons of The Ammons Law Firm, Daniel Barks of Speiser Krause PC, Jason Steed of Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton LLP, Mark Collmer of Collmer Law Firm, Justin Demerath of O’Hanlon, McCollom & Demerath, Bob Hilliard & Marion Reilly of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales LLP, Hugh Plummer of the Law Offices of Thomas J. Henry, Dennis Peery and R. Craig Bettis of Tyler & Peery, Kelly W. Kelly of Anderson & Associates Law Firm, Brett Reynolds of Brett Reynolds & Associates PC, Frank Herrera Jr. and Jorge A. Herrera of The Herrera Law Firm, Jason Webster of The Webster Law Firm, Erik Knockaert & Joe Schreiber of Schreiber Knockaert PLLC, Tim Maloney and Paul Campolo of Maloney & Campolo LLP, Daniel Sciano of Tinsman & Sciano, George LeGrand and Stanley Bernstein of LeGrand and Bernstein, and Craig W. Carlson and Phillip J. Koelsch of The Carlson Law Firm P.C.


The personal injury attorneys at National Trial Law comprise one of the oldest, and most well-established plaintiffs’ law firms in Austin, Texas. Since our firm was established in 1971, we have a history of achieving record verdicts and settlements in personal injury cases. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to maximize our clients’ success.

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